Seventeen of some of Duke’s most accomplished first-year STEM students have committed to integrating ethics, policy, and social considerations into their scientific research by joining the 2017 cohort of Huang Fellows.
The Huang Fellows Program – founded in 2016 by Dr. Andrew Huang, Professor of Medicine at Duke since 1982 and a Duke alumnus – trains students to understand science in the context of and in service to society. Applications to the young program doubled to 70 candidates since the inaugural cohort was selected last year. Out of that pool, only 15 are admitted each year.
”In a very short time, this has become a highly prestigious fellowship and we were very dedicated to increasing the diversity of our applicant pool and selecting especially qualified candidates,” said Michael Waitzkin, Deputy Director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society and Assistant Director of the Huang Fellows Program.
“The selection process was very difficult and competitive. We received over 70 applications and conducted 46 interviews to make sure we selected the students who are the best fit for this program.”
Almost a third of the candidates who applied held a 4.0 GPA after their first semester at Duke. One-in-seven candidates had already earned notable fellowships or scholarships through other programs including the AB Duke Memorial Scholarship Program, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, and Washington Duke Scholars Program.
Each fellow brings to the program their own unique personal and educational background. And are typically involved in many extra-curricular activities.
For example, Kat Hefter, a Pratt student pursuing a double major in biomedical engineering and neuroscience, plays the trumpet in the Duke wind symphony – as well as the marching and pep band. She is an active participant in the FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science) Capstone and works in the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
Ralph Lawton, a Huang fellow and a member of the J.B. Duke Scholars and Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, works in an economics research lab, volunteers for Duke EMS, and spends time off campus shooting archery.
Liam Pulsifer, a computer science major and recent addition to the program, explains: “I come from a large, diverse family, one filled with lawyers, writers, engineers, and thinkers of many different stripes. It’s their example that inspires me to ponder questions of the natural world and its relationship with humanity.”
Getting to the heart of the Huang Fellows mission; Liam believes that as we enter an increasingly globalized and connected society, it is imperative that future leaders in STEM develop clear, concise, and compelling ways to communicate scientific progress to the public.
The Huang Fellows Program is designed to foster a community of accomplished undergraduate scholars who are trained in the sciences and grounded firmly in the liberal arts. This preparation will enable them to serve as leaders in science and biomedical professions.
The centerpiece of the fellowship program is a tailored seminar series and intensive summer research experience in a laboratory on campus.
The summer seminar series emphasizes the value of integrity, ethics, and effective science communication, while integrating an understanding of the social and legal constructs of society into research.
Yannet Daniel is looking forward to the summer’s activities. “I cannot wait to take advantage of the interdisciplinary aspect of the Huang Fellows Program and to better understand the way medicine and culture interact—the way scientific research and society can equally impact and shape each other.”
Yannet is a pre-med student from Cary, NC, with family roots in East Africa. Her work as a research assistant for the Duke Brain Imaging & Analysis Center exposed her to issues related to the ethics of research and the role of cultural competency in practicing medicine.
Each new Fellow will be paired with mentors from the 2016 cohort in order to build a lasting community throughout their undergraduate studies at Duke.
“The mentoring groups will work together on science outreach projects in the local community; on developing good science communication skills; and on co-leading a book club and film series throughout their undergraduate years”, explains Emilia Chiscop-Head, Assistant Manager for Education at the Duke Initiative for Science & Society.
While students have not yet been paired, Emilia expects these relationships to strengthen each student’s experience by continuing to cultivate a spirit of collaboration and conversation across disciplines.
Gary Wang, a 2016 Huang Fellow acknowledges the impact of the program on his own academic decisions and how it has already shaped his academic path.
“The Huang Fellows Program made me more interested in exploring the interplay between science and policy. I decided to pursue an interdepartmental major so that I could incorporate policy coursework into my academic plan,” explained Gary, who is looking forward to meeting and mentoring the new fellows.
“Through my experiences in the Huang Fellows program, I’ve learned that a great mentor – both faculty and student – can not only help you gain knowledge and find opportunities, but help you discover your passions as well.”
Learn more about the program and view full student bios.
Applications for the 2018 cohort will open in December of 2017.